Food Number One, Wine Number Two.
Yup, this is a philosophy I have touted repeatedly, hence my focus on positive pairings, which makes food the portal to wine — thinking about and experiencing food opens just about the entire spectrum of vino.
Just a few days ago Charm and I celebrated Mother's Day at a relatively new restaurant in the Holman Building in downtown Pacific Grove. Our menu exploration was just plain delicious and no doubt wine-friendly, as we noted with the Bernardus Monterey Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($26) from a truly diverse and appealing wine list. Of course, I am referring to the jeninni kitchen + wine bar.
We started with a glass of Italian Bisol "jeio" brut rose prosecco that meshed nicely with a couple of the four dishes that topped the table.
The entrée special was mussels with bits of fried potato, lemon and herbs; highly, highly recommended. We also selected chicken wings with tahini, garlic and chile from the snacks selection; very tasty for George, as Charm isn't a fowl craver like yours truly. The charcuterie list included chicken liver pate with pickled onions and Pedro Ximinez sherry; yummy and yet another delightful companion to the Sauvignon Blanc. And finally, the small plates caught our attention with crispy octopus with calabrian chile and lemon mermelada; darn near irresistible.
We will definitely pay a visit now and then to savor the entire menu bit by bit and experience the wine list bottle by bottle. Stay tuned, or better yet, go for it.
A couple of nights later the weekly family gathering was blessed with the wife's first-rate Caesar salad, the lettuce lathered with a tasty mild mixture of anchovies, olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, garlic, grated Parmesan and red wine and tossed with sautéed prawns. I welcomed this opportunity to enjoy and document the very likely successful pairings with a few wines.
The opening glass was the pretty French Vin Mousseaux Pol Clement Rose Brut ($10.95) and proved to be a delightful salad companion with a particular affinity for the croutons; according to my Caesar records, all three sparklers have fit right in.
Round two was the VR Lodi Chardonnay 2013 ($9.95) that earned a definite thumbs up across the board, and as the 16th bottling it contributed to an 89 percent positive rate over 18 samplings. And given a 100 percent Caesar success rate with 12 other Sauvignon Blancs, I was not the least bit surprised that the 2011 Estrella California ($5.95) scored big time overall.
Speaking of Estrella, the California Merlot 2012 ($5.95) generated very similar positive pairing notes. Oh, and both wines couldn't resist the French baguette and butter. Of course, I have repeatedly documented the pairing versatility of the Estrella bottlings, including the Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, but check this out: Charm's sister Lizette treated us to perhaps the most delicious cheesecake in my memory, and the Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot adored not only the cheesecake but also the whipped cream and cream cheese topping. The beat does go on!
I've been exploring the relationships between food and wine for a couple of decades plus. With anticipation and an open mind, the learning and happy camper curve will continue.